Lessons in branding: Forbes

I would like to be a featured contributor in Forbes. Preferably in their online edition. A 2 or 3 page spread in the print version would definitely be the topping on the cake.

As a teenager living in Northern Nigeria, i collected old, discarded print copies of the magazine, along with Fortune and Time magazines. I had this collection for a number of years until I moved away to school and eventually to another city to work. They were finally disposed of by one of my siblings who was cleaning house at my parents place and my bag containing old books, the magazines and all manner of junk happened to be taking up valuable space. I want to believe even though I had not read them in years and may likely not remember anything specific that I read in them, that I imbibed enough knowledge from them to further my dream of being an entrepreneur.

I learnt a whole lot from poring over each page, underlining catchy phrases, transferring a few to my journal and where I had the opportunity, using the material to teach or drive home a point in some discourse. I even applied the knowledge in my sojourn as a business development analyst for a small firm while still in school.

Years have passed since our first encounter and Forbes has moved online, expanded into other journalistic territory not just entrepreneurship and news but the essence of their work remains the same to me. They provide a window for anyone who comes in contact with them to look through and see that anything is possible. Forbes initiated me to the other publications as mentioned previously and a few more like Inc and Entrepreneur whose online portals presently provide me with enough material as a budding business coach and blogger.

The Forbes brand grew from humble beginnings, with the first issue of the magazine coming out in 1917 to the point where they publish a rich list with strict criterion on who gets in or out and variations of the same list to the point where everyone who watches the world of finance keeps an eye out for that list. I dare say no other rich list comes even close in popularity or carries the same level of trust as to be considered close to infallible.

Here are the top five lessons I have learnt from being a student of the Forbes School of Branding.

1. Connect
Forbes has online and print platforms among others and they connect with their readers, advertisers and paying subscribers at every possible point. They ensure that value is given with every interaction. This ensures repeat visits and in the end, repeat business. Get your brand out in the open. There are several channels of communication available out there: Hop on social media, set up a website, start up a blog or ten. Keep up with your customers. Interact. Add value. Never underestimate the value of free stuff that you think you are giving away but is actually endearing you to your public.

2. Do one thing well.
The tagline on Forbes.com home page is “Information for the world’s business leaders”. This is a clear definition of who Forbes is out to reach. There are stories on sports, music, finance, politics and so much more. These stories feature alongside adverts from other leading world brands. There is however a focus for all this information, the business leader with eyes on becoming a world class brand or being the decision maker for one or more. Define clearly what you are out to achieve as a brand, focus all your output on that and you will go places.

3. Content first
Forbes always has interesting content even though I see some articles online and wonder why I clicked on them in the first place but they always seek to keep their content fresh and interesting. On social media, various snippets from different articles are put forward, a different one each time, seeking to draw the attention of the observant reader to material potentially life changing or just a tidbit of information to spice up the day. As a brand, present your best face but don’t be afraid to fall flat on it. Just pick yourself up and try again, turning a different angle each time until people get you.

4. Diversify
Yet stay with your central focus. Forbes has opened up several other publications apart from the main American edition. There are magazines in several different languages and dedicated to entire continents and regions of the world. The central focus remains, reporting financial news and providing like they did for me in the beginning and still do, perspective moulding insights into different aspects of life as an entrepreneur among other opportunities. The world is a huge and in the paraphrased words of Scarface – is yours. Meet them where they are, speak their language and you will soon have them beating a well-worn path to your door.

5. Raise others
This lesson is quite similar to one from a previous post about sharing the spotlight. The Forbes spotlight confers a level of major credibility to everyone who steps into it. Granted there will always be naysayers whose life work it seems is to tear down and criticize everyone and everything. Forbes has however given their contributors a valued attribute of being a voice in the finance journalism world as well as whichever community they personally belong to. I understand they also get paid in the process based on the level of interaction with the material they contributed. A veritable partnership; the seeming lesser climbing on the shoulder of the greater. As you grow your brand build in the mechanism to bring others along in your journey to greatness, and sometimes to even step out of the spotlight so that it’s only them that get the accolades.

Follow me on Twitter @bamsprings

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